Question: When you go to the first interview for any job, what is your goal; what should be your goal?
Answer: To be invited back for the next step in the process for further consideration.
That is your mission, do well enough to be invited back, one step at a time. Some people go into the interview and boldly say, “I’m going to get that job!” and that’s a good attitude but I counsel them not to get ahead of themselves. On the other hand, there are also many people who make a snap judgment during the first interview and before it is over they conclude they aren’t interested. So they don’t endeavor to finish the interview appropriately and, rather, they just give up. When you might have otherwise slept on it, you may have second thoughts about your conclusions if you haven’t already killed your own chances to be considered further. This is a mistake I see people make and indeed, hindsight is always 20/20. I contend foresight is more beneficial than hindsight.
The saying goes, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. If you choose to attend an interview, go into it to win it. Anything less and you’re short-changing yourself. The first interview is a screening interview for the most part. As such, don’t be surprised if the event is rather mechanical and not very inspiring, they don’t know you yet, nor do you know them. Perhaps you may not even meet your potential boss in the first round, but rather an HR staffer who hasn’t a clue about the details of the job for which you’ve applied. Their function is to screen you for your suitability, in order to send you forward to meet the hiring manager, whose time is short and is otherwise occupied.
I am not suggesting anyone interview for a job they don’t want, but don’t jump to a conclusion until you have enough facts upon which to base an informed decision. Indeed, if you encounter a complete mismatch between you and the job, you don’t match the company culture, or encounter ridiculous conditions, or you meet a jerk and it’s clearly a waste of your time, politely extricate yourself and save any more time wasted. But if you are not quite sure keep going, learn more and if you note something that raises a red flag, take notes; ask a question or save it for further consideration and later clarification. Use your head, as much or more, than your heart – it’s not personal, it’s business so treat it as such.
I can’t count all the times I have spoken with people I’ve represented who later, after the fact and against my counsel admitted, “I regret that I didn’t continue to at least learn more…”, “had I known…I would have felt differently…I might have done something different”. But in order to have the option to consider them and take it further, you have to stay focused and demonstrate why you should be considered further. Many people I’ve represented, who did take my advice, later thanked me for convincing them to not quit a process before they learned more, which invariably resulted in increased enthusiasm, which in turn, resulted in a new job. If you haven’t noticed increasingly, interviews are harder to come by so don’t dismiss something out of hand until you have more facts; strive to kick ass and show why you are their best choice, especially during the all-important first (face-to-face) interview.
In most cases, it is the second interview when you’ll have a good overview of the job and, likewise, they gain a better understanding about you. So take every interview seriously in its entirety, get all the information and make the best effort to be invited for the next step – each time. If you like the opportunity, go for it. If you don’t you can always decline and say no – but not if you didn’t bother to reach this point. Earn the opportunity to be able to say yes, or no – rather than to rush to a snap judgment unnecessarily and unwisely. That is, of course, unless you are one of the lucky ones, who have so many opportunities from which to pick and choose.